The Black Snow

Paul Lynch. Little, Brown, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-37641-9
Lynch returns to rural Donegal, the setting for his debut, Red Sky at Morning, in this stark tale of tragic consequences. Farmer Barnabas Kane, his teenaged son, Billy, and farmhand Matthew Peeples are working in the fields when the byre that houses the farm’s cattle begins to burn. Barnabas urges Peeples into the blaze before entering it himself, and neither the farmhand nor the cattle survive. As the community and Barnabas himself question his role in Peeples’s death, the Kane family’s life seems to disintegrate. Barnabas cannot rebuild the byre, having let the insurance lapse, and he refuses to sell land to raise the money despite his financial desperation. Insisting the fire was deliberately set, the once-valiant farmer spirals into depression, drink, and a combativeness that isolates the family further. His wife, Eskra, battles to preserve her faith in her husband and the farm, while Billy—whose journals punctuate the omniscient narration—struggles alone with adolescent growing pains and a searing sense of responsibility. Details reference World War II, but Lynch’s beautifully intertwined emotional and physical landscapes have a timelessness. Unconventional, sometimes confusing syntax, as well as the novel’s patient setup, make for a slow start. But the story gathers momentum scene by scene, building to a convincing finish. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/09/2015
Release date: 05/12/2015
Genre: Fiction
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